Today is our first day back in England after a gloriously sunny two weeks staying at the Kalikalos centre for holistic education on the Pelion Peninsular in Greece. We took part in their annual family fortnight, facilitated by Dorota Owen and Julie Leoni.
The centre, run by Jock Millenson, is an intentional community and member of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). Kalikalos has its roots in the Findhorn Foundation in northern Scotland, with which both Jock and Dorota have a connection.
An intentional community is one in which members choose to live and work together in close co-operation, sharing tasks and supporting one another in daily activities. Kalikalos offers an opportunity for individuals and families to experience this style of living and the general ethos behind it, while also spending time in the sunshine in a beautiful, unspoilt region of Greece overlooking the Aegean Sea.
This may not be how everyone wants to spend their holiday time and money. You have to join the rota for cooking, washing up and gardening (once or twice a week), do your own washing, change your own sheets and clean your own bathroom. You get three (wholefood vegetarian) meals provided each day, but you do have to eat what the team has chosen to cook. There is quiet time from 10 or 11pm until the breakfast bell is rung at around 8:30am, and breakfast is followed by circle time at 09:30.
But if you are looking for something that feels real, human and authentic – an alternative to the ubiquitous plastic package holiday – this may well be for you. I really enjoyed my cooking shifts for example (I cooked a foraged blackberry and apple crumble with custard…). I don’t mind rolling my sleeves up and it was nice to do it in good company for a change. I figured that if we had gone on a self-catering holiday I would have been cooking and cleaning every day just as I do at home, whereas if we had gone on an all-inclusive package I would probably have starved (in more ways than one). When I was looking around for holiday ideas it wasn’t at all clear how we would find one that would actually enable both frazzled parents to rest, while still remaining responsible for two very active three-year olds.
Well, working with the old adage that a change is as good as a rest, the Kalikalos family fortnight did give us some badly needed recuperation. Its proposition seems fairly unique – I’ve not found anything similar anywhere else – and that’s a shame because it really worked. Essentially a group of families come together in one place, get to know one another, share basic housekeeping duties and go to the beach (in the minibus, every afternoon from 1:30-5:30). But of course it’s not just that, and I’m quite sure that much of the success of this holiday lay in its skillful facilitation, which enabled us all to get to know each other really well in a relatively short space of time.
The group activities were an important part of this, as well as providing much needed entertainment for the kids. The morning circle time usually began with everyone, including the children, taking turns to tell the group their “roses and thorns” – any good or bad things that had happened to us over the past day – and also any “appreciations” for other group members who had done something particularly nice.
On the first day we were invited to make our “offers” to the group – any skills we had that we may be able to share, in the form of an individual session or group workshop – and state our “wants” – anything we hoped might be made possible during the course of the fortnight. In this way we “co-created” our experience, and a timetable was drawn up accordingly. Activities included storytelling, yoga, massage, reiki, visualisation, Biodanza, a “finding your tribe” workshop, various games, painting and drawing, bag-making, football and preparing for the Thursday night cabaret. I ran a “food and the five senses” workshop in the first week and a poetry writing workshop in the second. There were films for the children on some evenings, but screen time was relatively limited, although there was WiFi for those who wanted it.
Adult sharing circles were held fairly frequently, and these took place in a small yurt where individuals were able to take turns to speak and to be listened to without interruption (Julie has written more about these on her blog, here, and Dorota has written about using circle time in education, here). These were quite different from the Buddhist discussion meetings I am used to: there was no discussion or debate, but they were very respectful and supportive spaces and people were able to share some quite difficult things as well as how they were generally feeling about the holiday.
I think the family fortnight met our needs – and that’s no small praise – although we did have to manage our own boundaries around tending to try and do too much vs. spending time together as a family. Fortunately there were plenty of opportunities both for joining in and for taking time out. We had a few nice lunches out in local restaurants (and Tuesday night was Taverna Night for the whole group), and a couple of lovely walks into the woodland covering the mountainside. We picked blackberries and paddled in a mountain stream.
The minibus went to the beach every day except Friday (which was clean-up day), but like all the activities, attendance was optional. We stayed back on a couple of days and enjoyed the peace, quiet and hammocks, although I did enjoy swimming in the sea on most days. Sometimes the waves made it a bit hard work, but sometimes it was flat calm and there were hundreds of fish. On the last three days the group found a local swimming pool we could visit and this was a big hit with the kids.
Then finally it was time for the big trip home: a taxi to Volos at 5:30am, followed by a ferry to Skiathos at 8:15. An early lunch was followed by a taxi to the airport, a 3-and-a-half hour flight then an hour’s drive. It’s nice to be home finally, even if it is cold and raining.